At the recent San Fransisco Freedom Forum, Russian chess legend, Garry Kasparov, gave the closing presentation. In his speech he left no misinterpretation that the powers of totalitarian regimes are on the rise and there is only one force that can stop them – the will of democratic peoples around the world. While standing in front of a map that illustrated dictatorial regimes marked in red, he also made very clear that Russia is interfering in US politics, namely with its tacit support of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections. He also made clear that dictatorial governments are not interested in appeasement. I caught up with Mr. Kasparov after the conference ended to get further details of his views.
Mr. Kasparov, you mentioned in your speech that you believe that Russia is playing a role in US politics now. What makes you feel this way?
“Is that new? Hacking DNC servers is not direct intervention in US elections? And clearly when listening to Russian propaganda I look at Russian trolls from my Facebook page, from both my English and Russian pages. You can see them rallying behind Trump. And I believe that the mysterious results of Trump winning the polling on the internet which contradicted the telephone polling results its also a result, as was shown, of direct intervention of Russian trolls.
In your speech, I believe you also mentioned that you feel the appeasement of despotic regimes through dialogue is counterproductive, and that there should be a more hardline approach. Would you clarify?
“This is an oversimplification. In my books and articles I’ve been pointing out that Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy spoke to despotic regimes because they do exist. But it’s not about speaking. It’s about having your own agenda and defending that agenda and knowing there are territories that you cannot concede. You can talk to Putin but you cannot let him do what he has been doing in the Ukraine and Syria by pretending he’s an ally. He’s not. So it’s about the having political will to defend the values of the free world, which has unfortunately been lost recently.”
After this brief interview, I checked out Mr. Kasparov’s Facebook page. There, he minced no words in his disdain for Mr. Trump, or his belief that Putin is backing him for a reason. Here a just two of his recent posts:
“Trump-Putin 2016! Should I order one (a t-shirt)? So many of Trump’s advisors are tied to Putin’s Russia that he should just cut out all the middlemen and put him on the ticket! I don’t think Putin would accept the VP slot, however, so maybe Putin-Trump is the way it should read.”
“I don’t care if Trump has been trained or hypnotized and sounds like a combination of Lincoln, Churchill, and Reagan tonight. We already know who and what he is: a vile and ignorant demagogue who cares only for himself. His track record of hatred and lies is crystal clear for all to see. Debates are unpredictable (one reason Putin has never participated in one in his life) and can be useful. But they can also be a brief and superficial show that has little to do with qualifications for office. Even if Trump uses his years of reality television practice and manages to control himself for 90 minutes, he is and will remain totally unfit for the office of president.”
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, it is clear that a natural consequence government will engage overt and covert means to interfere in politics. In one of our recent articles, we discussed how disinformation campaigns are more and more commonplace in technologically advanced nation states. With so much riding, geopolitically, on this particular election, it would seem only obvious that Russia would seek to impose its influence to garner a result that serves its interests. But, as Mr. Kasparov told made clear in his presentation, the only factor standing in the way of the advancement of totalitarian regimes are the populations of democratic nations.